President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence held a press briefing for the Coronavirus Task Force on March 17, 2020.

This report is intended to give you an overview and highlight of the discussions on the various topics the committee took up. It is not a verbatim transcript of the hearing, but is based upon what was audible or understandable to the observer and the desire to get details out as quickly as possible with few errors or omissions.

President Donald Trump

  • Last night FDA announced ground breaking new policies to further increase testing. All states can now authorize tests developed and used within their borders, in addition to the FDA
  • We are announcing dramatic expansion of medicare telehealth. Medicare patients can now access telehealth at no additional cost- never been done before. HIPPA penalties will not be enforced.
  • Spoke with executives from America’s fast food industry this morning. We reviewed the important role that drive up and delivery service can have in the weeks ahead
  • Yesterday, we asked Americans to take measures over the next 15 days (work from home if possible, avoid social gatherings, dining in/bars)
  • Today, the Senate took up Coronavirus legislation that includes free testing for those that need it and paid sick/family medical leave for those affected by the virus
  • We are also working on getting small businesses the support and flexibility they need for themselves and their workers. Secretary Mnuchin is meeting with senators today on additional stimulus packages.
  • We are dealing with Army Corps of Engineers, have them working in some cases and on stand by in other cases. We are giving relief as needed
  • Later today, ,meeting with leaders from tourism industry and supply retailers and wholesalers to discuss their critical roles. We are taking aggressive action now so that America can rebound stronger than ever. We recognize not everyone can work from home, people are showing up to provide America with the goods and services we need


Vice President, Mike Pence

  • We are inspired at the way the American people and businesses have stepped up
  • Our task force met this morning and we continue to work on the President’s priorities of:
    • Testing
      • Available in all 50 states, state public health authorities can now authorize labs and approve tests
      • Task force received a report concerning expanding remote testing around the country. Will have more on this by the end of the week
    • Prevention
      • Health experts want us to communicate that you don’t need testing to know what you should do
      • President Trump’s 15-day Coronavirus guidelines are for everyone and if everyone practices these, we can slow the spread of the Coronavirus
    • Supplies
      • Urge construction companies to donate inventory of N95 masks to their local hospital and forego ordering more at this time


Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasurer

  • Earlier today, a letter was sent to Fed Chairman Powell, approving the request to use 13-3. Fed will be setting up special purpose vehicle that the Treasury will invest $10 billion from our funds in. That will allow Fed to guarantee purchase of A1 P1 commercial paper going forward. $1 trillion market critical to Americans businesses and savers who have money in money market funds. There are liquidity issues and this move has already created significant stability in the market today
  • President suggested $300 billion in IRS payment deferral. We encourage Americans who can file taxes to continue to file so you can get your full tax refund. If you owe a payment, you can defer up to $1 million as an individual and $10 million to corporations, interest and penalty free for 90 days. You can still defer payment as normal
  • Economic stimulus plan- will be presented to the Republicans in the Senate this morning. Look forward to having bipartisan support and are looking to pass this legislation very quickly. Will include payment to small businesses, loan guarantees to industries like hotels and airlines, and stimulus package to the American worker
  • Q: Stimulus package- direct payments to Americans or payroll tax holiday?
    • Payroll tax holiday would get money out over next 6-8 months, but direct payments would be for Americans now, as in the next two weeks
  • Q- What help will you give to airlines?
    • Have talked to all airline CEO’s. This is worse than 9/11 for the airline industry. The President wants to maintain the right to critical travel, although limited.
  • Q- There has been talk about $1,000 support to every American. Would you support that going to everyone or some sort of income restriction?
    • It is clear that someone who makes $1 million a year shouldn’t get checks. We will have a pretty good idea by end of day as to what we should be doing
  • Q- How would this idea of sending people a check work?
    • We want to make sure Americans get the money they need and we will be laying out those details later today
  • President: 4-5 ways it can be laid out- payroll tax is one way but it comes over a period of many months and we are trying to get it out sooner. We are going big and are trying to do a big infusion now instead of having to make small decisions every couple days. We don’t want people losing their jobs or not having money to live
  • Q: What about restaurants?
    • We want the fast/curbside to stay open with restaurants. They feed a big part of America and we need them. Many of the companies have apps, many of them will have it packed ahead of time and are able to deliver with social distancing. We are unveiling a program that will help all small/medium businesses of 500 or less
  • Marriot Corporation announced it is furloughing thousands of individuals because of Coronavirus. Will you be helping?
    • Yes that is why we are acting very quickly. We are pushing $1 trillion of potential liquidity into the market
  • Q: Stock market?
    • We believe Americans should have access to their money and want to keep the market open. We may make it to a point where we have to shorten hours, but we want Americans to know we will still allow them access to their money
  • Q: Will we run out of prescription drugs from China?
    • President: China has every incentive to make sure we have what we need. I don’t foresee a shortage
  • Q: The Governor of Ohio called off the election. How will you ensure elections continue?
    • President: Governor of Ohio did a great job in calling off. They are going by rule of 10. It is a decision for him, someone is challenging, so courts will decide. Simplest solution right now is get rid of the virus
  • Q: How many new hospital facilities can the Army Corps of Engineers build and have new ventilators been ordered?
    • President: We have tremendous amounts of equipment, we have ordered more. Governors have been given ability to order directly instead of waiting on federal government if it was faster
    • Pence: President has us inventorying field hospitals, DOD can be helpful in expanding medical capacity. We are considering every request from governors for the Army Corps of Engineers to build/upgrade equipment or bring field hospitals
    • President: Army Corps of Engineers is ready, willing, and able. We can have many units up in a short period of time


Seema Verma, Administrator for Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

  • We are doing a dramatic expansion of telehealth for medicare beneficiaries. We are acting in accord with the appropriations bill signed March 6th and with declaration of emergency last week
  • Q: Where do senior citizens go for instructions about telehealth?
    • They can go to their doctors office. We are asking family members to help with getting equipment as needed, taking into account social distancing. 1-800-medicare


Admiral Giroir, Asst Secretary for Health and Head of Public Health Service Agencies

  • Public health labs/ CDC have reported out almost 32,000 tests. Association of Clinical Labs have reported approx. 27,000 tests. Of those 27,000 tests, 8,200 of them were reported yesterday
  • Hospital lab numbers are not in yet
  • Drive thru labs are blossoming all over the state. We are setting up 47 of these in 12 states. We know that we will be deploying 140 commissioned corp officers
  • We did a trial site yesterday with a full mobile drive thru unit and found some kinks in the system. They will have to be adapted to the state and local situation, but we are confident they will add testing to the already robust system


Dr. Birx, Medical Expert

  • You have been hearing that we are trying to find solutions that are sustainable and that are high response. We have removed levels of red tape and bureaucracy
  • We are creating a roadmap for future pandemics. Our Flu Pandemic Plan was a good plan that needed to be revised
  • We were adamant about having a high quality test for our commercial vendors. Other tests administered around the world were not as high of quality and gave false positives. Testing should not be used as an assessment of risk. We are asking everyone to follow guidelines, to not unnecessarily leave their homes. We are asking the younger generation to not go out into bars and restaurants and speed the asymptomatic spread of the virus into grocery stores and other public places
  • Applaud private sector, esp. grocery stores for creating time blocks for senior citizens and at risk populations to shop
  • If we do this well now, we can change the future of how respiratory viruses affect america
  • Q: On the clinical data, when will we know the data specifics? Who, age, etc.?
    • Applauds HHS. We have gotten data back from California and are working with New York. We are currently digesting that data
  • Q: When you will you make that data public?
    • We are committed to making it public and putting up a website with real time updates
  • Q: There are a small number of states that have not issued public guidance. Is it important that they do?
    • That is why it is important that we put out critical guidelines yesterday at the federal level. We believe every governor and mayor should be instituting these guidelines
  • Q: You have been telling us for several days, millions of tests are being sent out, so why have fewer than 60,000 been tested?
    • The numbers will change as the week goes on. We can only make them available, groups have to order them. We have been talking to Therma Fischer, one of the key platforms, to push tests out based on need, not to wait on orders. The admiral is looking at other options like if an individual can do a test themself


President- The governors and states are doing a lot of it.

  • Q: Can you speak to how long the tough restrictions are going to be in place before we see results and can you speak to the model that shows potential of 2.2 million in mortality in the U.S.?
    • Every modeler has their favorite inputs and integrations. We are working with every modeler to make sure we have the best model for the US. To the hospitals and dentists offices, don’t go in if you don’t have to for the next two weeks. Lets free up as much space as possible and do what we can to save ventilators so they will be available for those that need them
  • Q: What about increased travel restrictions
    • President- It’s possible, everyone has been very cooperative
  • Q: Do you need to invoke the Defense Production Act to invoke more of those supplies if needed?
    • President: Yes, we have already looked at it but not at this moment. There are 3 main states in high need right now.
  • What about people planning on more international travel
    • President- Stay home, we will get this fixed quickly and reopen the world. We are doing very well for a country that is so big.
  • Will White House put any restrictions on corporate bonuses for industries that do get bailed out, like airlines?
    • We will do whatever it takes. We are working with financial institutions, airline, etc. and everyone is working together

President- everyone has an incredible spirit right now. Banks are doing things that they never would have done.


Dr. Fauci, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

  • Q: You said you liked being accused of overreacting. How long will it take for you to be confident we are bending the curve?
    • We don’t know for sure. This is unprecedented. I do know that if you look at models, when you input into the kinds of mitigation we are doing. We will see a hump and not a peak. This is a comprehensive thing that has multiple components. If everyone does their job, we will give a number and see that inflection coming down. I just don’t want to give a number now because it could be misleading.
  • Q: There is a study out of China saying 86% were in untested patients with mild to no symptoms. What does this mean for us?
    • We tend to think that we are not going to be able to mitigate without the testing. What we are doing now to mitigate is helpful despite the testing. The CDC is going out right now and looking at what they didn’t initially think was the Coronavirus
  • Q: When is the soonest we will know the new guidelines are bending the curve?
    • We can see the virus going up and up but you may not see the work you are doing work for a while. You don’t know whether it would spike higher- it will probably be several weeks or longer before we know if we are having an affect.
  • Q: CDC issues recommendation against 10 or more in a gathering. Others are announcing different numbers
    • We don’t need to get hung up on the difference between 10 or another number. We give guidelines. We stand by our numbers, but it’s not precise math.
  • Would it be more effective if every city and state played by the same rules?
    • Yes, but in the US, there is free enterprise and not everyone has to. There is not that significant of a difference in the rules


President Donald Trump

  • Q: Would you endorse an idea of incentives for companies that bring their supply back to the U.S.?
    • We are looking at incentives similar to that and specifically at helping airline industry. We will have a powerful airline industry and it will start up as soon as this is over
  • Q: Have you taken a look at some of these models like the Imperial London Model that looks at shutting down society?
    • We have looked at every model and there is a talented team behind me that is working on this. Our model is that we want to save a lot of lives. If people do what we are telling them to do, we are going to see the saving of a lot of lives. Everything else will come back but lives will not come back, that is our number one priority
  • Q: Did you just decide this week to implement more stringent social distancing measures?
    • No, that was the plan all along. We have just been moving one step at a time. We shut down travel from China very early on.
  • One of your former economic advisers said there was almost a 100% chance of recession- what do you think?
    • I don’t think in terms of recession, if we knock this out, we will have an economy like we have never had before, it is all pent up.
    • Pence- The moves that the President has taken have been informed by the experts from the beginning. Yesterday we brought the 15 day slow the spread plan because we believe we are at a point where we can really slow the spread of the virus.
  • This has had a huge impact on China’s economy- have you received any word about China and trade agreement with us
    • We have a great relationship with China and don’t for see that happening
  • Q: At what point will you tap into more resources needed for hospitals, etc.?
    • We will know the point for each state. There are some hot spots and there are other areas that are not as affected.
  • Q: An Executive Order recommendation has been made to have more medical equipment manufactured in the US.
    • We are looking at alternatives but we have still been getting what we need from China and from Ireland as well.
  • Q: Canada is closing borders, have you considered this as well?
    • Canada has closed to world but not to the US. We are discussing but will not say for certain on anything yet.
  • Q: National lockdown?
    • I don’t think it’s going to be an action we are going to come to. The experts behind me will come together and help make a decision on that.
  • Q: Will the US government provide financial assistance to BOEING and other aircraft providers?
    • Boeing has been hit in several ways over the past year. We have to protect and help them.
  • Q: As Biden said, WHO offered tests and you refused
    • Birx- We don’t buy tests that don’t have data that show it is a quality test. If there are large numbers of false positives, we don’t buy those tests. We take the same approach with HIV testing. Without a plan and regulatory framework we will not accept tests that have not been studied by the U.S.
    • Admiral- Nothing was offered that was refused, there have been rumors about that